In “Political Animals,” the USA Network series event, Ellen Burstyn stars as Margaret Barrish, part of a Clinton-esque political clan. A straight-shooting, one-time Vegas showgirl, Margaret is the mother of Elaine Barrish Hammond (Sigourney Weaver), a former First Lady who subsequently divorces her philandering husband and is named Secretary of State. The six-part series premieres July 15.
Burstyn, 79, has enjoyed a storied career in Hollywood and on the stage. She won a best actress Oscar for “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” and received five additional nominations for her roles in “Requiem for a Dream,” “Resurrection,” “Same Time, Next Year,” “The Exorcist” and “The Last Picture Show.” She received a Tony Award for her performance in “Same Time, Next Year” on Broadway and is set to appear in a revival of Picnic, the Pulitzer Prize-winning William Inge play, this winter.
Burstyn was the first woman elected president of Actors Equity Association, and she has served as the Artistic Director of the famed Actors Studio, where she currently shares the title of co-president with Al Pacino and Harvey Keitel. TV fans will recognize Burstyn from appearances on “Law Order: SVU,” for which she won an Emmy, as well as “Big Love.” Huff/Post50 caught up with Burstyn in New York City.
What attracted you to the role in “Political Animals”?
It’s such fun — she’s the truth-teller in a group of people who are always masking their feelings and guarding their words and making deals and compromises. She’s the one who says what’s on her mind; she has a great sense of humor and she speaks from the heart.
Do you think that’s a core part of her character, or a function of her age?
She was a Vegas showgirl and I have a feeling she probably learned to lay it on the line pretty early. I think she’s a survivor and that seems to be part of her inner state. Very possibly as time went on she got freer and looser with her honesty. I do think as we age we come into our own authenticity.